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Serving in all theaters of the Second World War, the P-38 was the main aircraft fighter of many of America's top aces in the Pacific theater. With twin booms, the Lightning was a long range interceptor fighter with a revolutionary design that served in all theaters of war. Major Richard Bong scored his 40 kills flying P-38s in the Pacific. P-38s were also used in the famous mission that intercepted and shot down Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville. The P-38's high speed and large nose section (an ideal location for reconnaissance cameras) made the plane a natural for photographic reconnaissance missions.
Called by the Germans Der Gabelschwanz Teutel ("The Devil with the Cleft Tail"), the Lightning was a controversial plane, loved and hated at the same time by its pilots. In production from 1940 to 1945, a total of 9,923 P-38s were built in several versions.
The Lightning was designed by Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team of designers. It represented one of the most radical departures from tradition in American fighter development, in fact, a complete break-away from conventional airframe design, power, and armament. With twice the power and almost twice the size of its predecessors, but with no less than four .50 cal. machine guns plus a 20 mm cannon, the P-38 had enough firepower to sink a ship - and it sometimes did. Concentrated in the central fuselage pod, the guns fired parallel, eliminating the need for a propeller synchronizer.
The Lightning tricycle landing gear and twin-boom configuration completed the list of major deviations from preceding Army fighters. In this respect, it was very unusual that the Lightning design progressed beyond the testing stage; such radical concepts seldom achieved production status. But the simple fact was that the P-38 design worked and the Army seemed to have found its dream plane in this 400 mph fighter.
This coin is a tribute to these great airplanes. Struck in a brass alloy and finished in antique bronze, this coin's reverse is imbued with rich enamel accents. Each coin comes packaged with a descriptive header card that provides insight into the role of this airplane in the war effort.